MANILA, Philippines—Eight of the 12 players of Gilas Pilipinas are ready to win their first gold medals in the Southeast Asian Games on Tuesday, when they take on Thailand in the men's basketball final at Mall of Asia Arena.
Thailand edged Vietnam 101-95, and the Philippines crushed Indonesia 97-70 to set up a battle for the championship.
It will be a rematch of the finals of the 2011 and 2013 SEA Games.
Game time between Gilas and Thailand is at 8:15 p.m. A win will give the Philippines its 18th basketball gold in the SEA Games.
"I think if we could defend them first, and get out on the open court before they can get that zone set up or they can get their press set up, I think we'll be in good shape. Easier said than done, though," Gilas head coach Tim Cone said of Thailand.
Cone said he expects his team to struggle a bit against Thailand's defense, but he is also confident his team will be ready.
This, as most of them are raring to win gold medals for the first time in their careers.
"I asked them yesterday, how many of you guys have won a gold medal in your career? I've been in the league 31 years, and I've been coaching in the PBA for 31, I've never won a gold medal," Cone said.
"Won a few championships, but not a gold medal, so this is special," he added. "I think 8 or 9 of our guys haven't won a gold medal. So now that it's this close, I think our guys are gonna be ready."
Of the members of Cone's team, only Kiefer Ravena, Greg Slaughter, Troy Rosario, and Christian Standhardinger have won SEA Games gold. Ravena has won a record four SEA Games titles.
Thailand has been impressive in these SEA Games, sweeping Group B to meet Vietnam in the semifinals. But the Thai side struggled to win that game, with Chris Dierker exploding for 31 points to keep Vietnam in competitive.
"We had a feeling going into this tournament that it's kind of a collision course to the finals, but we really been focused and locked in on each game at hand," Gilas point guard Chris Ross said.
"Now the game's here, I'm sure a lot of the guys will watch some of their highlights or tape on YouTube tonight. We'll get in and see what coach is gonna say about it, and we'll go from there."
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.